West Virginia Headed In The Right Direction With Duis, But Could Do More

In West Virginia, the push to make roads safer has been a bumpy ride. Traffic deaths were at a low in 2005 at 374, but they crept back up in 2007 and settled at 431 fatal accidents. Between 2006 and 2007, alcohol played a role in well over 1,000 accidents.

Lately, West Virginia has once again seen a drop in DUI fatalities, but there is still room for improvement. Other states, such as California and Arizona, have made more pronounced efforts aimed at tackling drunk driving, and the results have been impressive.

In Los Angeles County, the “Avoid 100” holiday task force netted 2,600 arrests between December 18 and January 3. In Arizona, the West Valley Task Force, covering areas like Glendale, stopped 338 drunk drivers and helped Arizona achieve a record year in DUI arrests.

These efforts have paid off. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), DUI-related deaths dropped nearly 12 percent between the two states in 2007.

While the main goal of DUI checkpoints and public campaigns is to get drunk drivers off the road and remove the immediate threat to public safety, there is always a broader goal to dissuade drivers from even getting behind the wheel drunk in the first place.

This past holiday season marked the first time that West Virginia used paid media, outside of Labor Day crackdowns, to dissuade drunk driving and let drivers know about increased police presence on the road. While this is a step in the right direction, many would like to see more.

Through December and early January, in California, the average driver could hardly move without being confronted by a warning sign or announcement. From billboards to television, to the top of gas pumps and on cooler clings — the public was informed that it would be driving drunk at its own risk.

In Colorado, the state department of transportation released the iPhone app “R-U-Buzzed?” and launched a dedicated “PlanAheadColorado” Web site. Meanwhile, the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety distributed 14 separate news releases to media outlets through December and up to January 2.

While West Virginia is making progress in its efforts to stop drunk driving and DUI fatalities, it could be doing more. Hopefully, the decision to better promote crackdowns this last December is the first of many steps in the right direction.

Greene, Ketchum, Farrell, Bailey & Tweel LLP

419 Eleventh Street Huntington, WV 25701

 

 

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